Blackwell Road interchange approved

rpulley@lsjournal.comApril 10, 2013 

Opponents of a new interchange at Blackwell Road failed to derail an agreement for building the interchange on U.S. 50 in east Lee’s Summit.

Several people from the Canterbury subdivision spoke to the City Council April 4, saying that extending Blackwell to connect with the highway will increase the number of motorists speeding through their neighborhood.

The council still voted 5-3 to approve an agreement with the Missouri Department of Transportation where that state agency will pay for about 50 percent of the $25 million total for the interchange and outer roads. MoDOT will oversee land acquisition and construction.

The interchange at Blackwell has been part of the city’s comprehensive plan for decades.

A tax-increment financing district was created in 2007 to help fund the project and other highway improvements. The TIF district is being amended to help with construction of a Price Chopper and public improvements at Todd George Parkway, but it won’t affect the Blackwell interchange.

Council members Bob Johnson, Ed Cockrell and David Mosby voted no.

Prior to the vote, Gordie Faust, father of 9-year-old Justin Faust who was a pedestrian killed in an accident on Blackwell Road in 2004, asked the council to not approve the agreement.

He said there were high volumes of traffic and motorists speeding. Critics contend that families living in the subdivision needed to cross the road to reach an elementary school, the subdivision pool or neighborhood park. There are painted cross walks, but no crossing guards, nor traffic signals at the crosswalks.

“Connecting 50 Highway to Blackwell will only make things worse,” Faust said. “It’s not too late to stop this poor engineering decision from happening.”

He said moving the interchange to Smart Road is a better alternative, because it maintains the normally recommended two mile spacing for interchanges under MoDOT standards. Smart Road is also an intersection with a high number of serious accidents.

Under the plan approved by the city and MoDOT, U.S. 50 access at Smart Road will be closed when the Blackwell Road interchange and extensions of Blue and Oldham parkways are complete. Travelers will use the outer roads to enter the highway at Blackwell. MoDOT plans to extend those outer roads to eventually connect with Missouri 7.

Mosby asked if there were any current applications for development near the proposed Blackwell interchange. There aren’t.

He then questioned the city’s priorities for building that interchange. He said money would be better spent on problem areas at Missouri 291 and U.S. 50 near Lee’s Summit High School, at south Missouri 291 and U.S. 50 and at Ward Road and U.S. 50.

“Why would we be thinking of spending $21 million on a bridge where there are no applications or any hint of it at this point?” he said.

Cockrell said he had been voting for the TIF plan and interchange, but his final objection was, “We did not have money earmarked and reserved for the safety improvements we’re going to need for Blackwell Road.”

Councilman Brian Whitley and Mosby asked city staff to look at other “traffic calming’’ measures to slow down motorists using the route such as traffic signals with push-button crosswalk.

“We know children do try to cross Blackwell,” Mosby said.

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